Do We Take Assembly for Granted?
If there is one thing that these current circumstances have taught me, it is that we oftentimes take assembly as believers for granted, especially in the United States. I don't know about you, but there have been countless times where I have gotten into my car to head to church without a second thought of how much it is a blessing from God to be able to do so. We have a habit of getting into a "comfortable" routine, and often lose sight of the blessings that can so easily be taken for granted. Do we "expect" certain blessings rather than having an attitude of gratitude? Do we give "thanks to God the Father through Him (Jesus Christ)" as Paul commands in Col. 3:17?
In the more hostile parts of the globe, believers will walk miles, face persecution, imprisonment, and/or brave the elements in order to gather with one another. Why? They have a love for one another that supersedes any burden or peril they may face. A love so richly poured out by the Savior that their cups overflow with the same infectious love towards one another. On Wednesday night, the youth group gathered via the internet on Zoom. It was a rich time of fellowship, digging into the Word, and playing games through the current technology of our age. It felt as though it has been a month since we gathered physically, and it reminded me of how easy it is to take assembly for granted. Lord willing, when this crisis passes, I pray our fellowship will be rekindled with a new zeal, passion, and gratitude. Until that day, how then should we live?
"Pilgrims of Dispersion"
When I reflect on 1 Peter, I am reminded of the believers that were scattered across the land, mostly due to persecution. Although persecution is intended to harm the church, God has used it to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Believers were now living in areas that had never been exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ before. Currently, we are dispersed throughout Berks County during this quarantine. While we might not be facing the exact same issues as the early church, we can still draw encouragement from God's Word, Peter's letter to the "Pilgrims of Dispersion."
Look with me at v. 6-7 in 1 Peter 1:
In this you greatly rejoiced, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,
What are they rejoicing in? An "inheritance" that is eternal (v.4), purchased through the saving work of Jesus Christ at the cross. Through salvation in Christ alone, believers get to share in that inheritance. Nothing can rob us of that eternal inheritance, especially pestilence. Peter makes it very clear that they will be "grieved by trials." Persecution, isolation, losing their jobs/homes, and being scattered were among those trials. Today you might be feeling lonely, isolated, and/or feeling the strain of economic burden. I can imagine that believers in the early church were beginning to doubt, and their faith diminished as the fear of their circumstances gripped them. The "narrow road" is riddled with trials. it was never promised that it would be easy. Why does God use trials? Let's continue reading below:
that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,
Our faith will be tested for genuineness. Trials separate the genuine believers from the false and superficial. Trials also have a way of purifying souls. When metal is heated, the impurities rise to the surface for removal. The metal is then beaten into the form it must take. It is through trials we can identify (through God's Word and the discernment of the Holy Spirit) what impurities need to be removed. Let the fire test you and purify you. We want to have a "genuine" faith. One day we will all stand before Christ. What will our testimony be? The current pandemic will undoubtedly test us. What should we do?
1.) We must have continual faith in Jesus Christ regardless of the circumstances surrounding us, even pestilence.
2.) We must have faith that nothing on this earth can take away that eternal salvation sealed by the blood of Christ.
3.) We must ask ourselves what impurities need to be removed during the trials that we face. (How can God refine us?)
4.) We must understand that trials happen, and trials will continue to happen as we walk this sin defiled earth. Will our testimony be one of fear and defeat, or will it be one of unshakable joy and faith in our risen Savior, Jesus Christ?
Let us continue to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, and allow God to use this trial for the betterment of our souls. Let us turn over all of our impurities and doubts to the Lord, and let The Potter work.